Influentials Network Aggrefiltering Illustrates Web 2.0′s Most Important Skill
On your first glance at the Influentials Network home page, you won't see anything all that special. You'll see some links to blog items down the left-hand side labeled "Top Items", and some smaller links to the right labeled "New Item Finder". It looks like a hundred other blog aggregators being released nowadays... no big deal, right?
But the political news site is more special than it appears. Influentials Network is an aggregator that accurately shows what topics are coursing through the political mediasphere veins at any given moment. What makes it special is that it is much more accurate than other aggregators. Hundreds of sites aggregate news and blog feeds, but few are able to glean what's most relevant. Many are able to find the most popular topics of the moment, but most can't get rid of the unpopular topics. The ability to show only what's new and being talked about, while hiding what's not, is the advantage that Influentials Network has. It's a single page of highly relevant information.
It's a challenge being taken up by many developers. Technorati has its popular page. Icerocket has "Hot Topics" listed across the top of its results pages. Bloogz has its ranking page. Bloglines has it most popular links page. All of these services are trying to do the same thing: show what's going on right now.
So why are developers focusing so much on aggregating? Why are they building search engines for blogs? Well, I think it's because we're living in an attention economy, and so optimizing our systems to provide people with the latest interesting news becomes an obvious way to get attention. Getting people's attention is easiest when we can already see what many are paying attention to. If the high profile bloggers are paying attention to something, then everyone else probably will, too.The Real Challenge: Filtering
The real challenge, and thus a crucial skill of Web 2.0, is filtering out noise. Finding just the right algorithm to parse through hundreds or thousands of feeds and decide what topics are really worth paying attention to is not easy. It's like being in a stadium of screaming people and trying to figure out what conversations are the most important.
Influentials Network takes a slightly different approach to filtering than sites like Technocrat or Bloglines. Instead of trying to index anything and everything like those two do, Influentials Network starts with a relatively small set of political news sites and bloggers and then branches out to other traditional and social media sources. This is an efficient way of keeping down the noise while also catching most of what is important.
Looked at in a slightly different way, Influentials Network is a political news ranking system. It ranks and recommends what Politics news to read. In the old media, the most important services of the newspapers and the nightly news were to recommend to us what we pay attention to (note that I'm using the past tense here). It makes great recommendations of what to read.
Of course, the Web as Platform doesn't filter by itself. Simply having a bunch of content from which to draw doesn't do that much for us other than provides an exciting opportunity. With no effort in filtering we're left with simple aggregation services that copy everything, word-for-word, the wheat and the chaff. With more effort in filtering we have valuable Latest political news filters like Influentials Network that can pinpoint the important content and hide the rest.
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